As a child growing up in a large metroplex in Texas, I didn't have much interaction with the food that fed our family. My grandmother had a few prickly blackberry bushes that were torn up to make room for day lilies, and what was once a patch for potatoes eventually grew over with grass. I remember an afternoon spent digging in the soil searching for buried potatoes and the rich, earthy smell of the soil as it was turned beneath my fingers. My little sister poked around the blackberry bushes and pulled out the ripest fruit, nibbling each one and handing me the berries that still had a tiny bit of tart left. My only experience with raw dairy was during a field trip to the zoo where we watched somebody milk a cow and we took turns churning butter. Then in college I dated a guy whose grandfather, Benny, grew sweet potatoes, tomatoes and a variety of winter squash on land that had been passed down for generations. It was in Benny’s family vegetable patch that I walked through my first row of corn and chose husks with sweet, golden ears to shuck and grill with fat pats of butter. The vegetable garden was a small Eden through which I could wander and pluck squash and fresh beans from vines climbing among the stalks of sweet corn. Believe it or not, that summer was the first time I tasted fresh spinach, sautéed with fresh butter; simple and hard to surpass.
Time passed and I married my college sweetheart, Christopher, whose career took us to Italy. Settled at the base of the Italian Alps, I noticed that our neighbors grew extensive vegetable gardens. Chickens scratched through rows of grapevines, and fat geese honked as I rode my bike to my favorite trattoria, where the owner/chef cooked meals based solely upon what was growing in his garden at the time. Taking note from my neighbors and remembering what I gleaned from my time with Benny, I planted my own vegetable garden and rejoiced when my first zucchinis grew. We watched and marveled at how they seemed to double in size over night; when we finally picked them, they were the size of my forearm and almost completely devoid of flavor. We learned as everything grew and future harvests came earlier. Blessed with an array of vegetables that I managed to grow from seeds, we proudly shared them with our Italian neighbors who were probably baffled by our gifts of zucchini, eggplant and basil when they had plenty in their own gardens. We were invited into homes and kitchens, and we savored each moment we were given as part of the community.
Fast forward to 2010 and the panic attack I had in a grocery store when we moved back to the United States. After three years of fresh food, I was suddenly surrounded by boxes and cans. My newly pregnant body craved green beans, and a drive from Texas, where we had flown in from Italy to visit family, to our new home in California left us with no options other than the mushy mess served in smoky 24 hour truck stops. My body revolted and refused to keep down any food that was offered, and I wasted away in our new home; garden-less, friendless and without a community to support me. It wasn’t until I had Evelyn and ventured into a cloth diapering store that I met Heather who introduced me to Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and gave me my first kombucha scoby. What a can of worms that turned out to be! While researching fermenting, I happened upon the Weston A. Price Foundation’s website and found our local chapter, and invited the cloth diapering friend to attend what would be our first meeting of many. Suddenly I had access to fresh produce, raw honey and grass-fed meats as well as the extensive knowledge of others. Now I have a community and a friend willing to brave the strange world of ferments, raw milk and real foods with me. Recalling the memory of digging for potatoes and popping juicy, ripe blackberries into my mouth in my grandmother’s garden, I thought about what I wanted for Evelyn. I envisioned her running through rows of corn and placing fresh eggs into a basket to bring into the kitchen. Her knees are muddy from digging along rows of vegetables; her nails are crescents of soil, watching in wonder as the seeds she plants grow into something she can pick and eat.
At Eatwell Farm, Evelyn has the best of this world. Dirt roads to ride her bike, fields of ripe, red strawberries in the summer to pick and pop in her mouth, and farm animals galore. Every week she helps open the farm box and discover what’s inside. We marvel and the whorls of the romanesco and smell the earthy scent of onions picked fresh the day before delivery. The produce, eggs and chicken stock nourish our family.
Community, loving people, wholesome food, fresh air. Eatwell Farm isn’t only my workplace but my refuge; a place to be present and indulge in each day. There’s a vibrancy to this place; an energy filled with growth and fertility, renewal and abundance. I’m filled with gratitude and love for Nigel and Lorraine. You are my family. My Community. My Eatwell Farm. - Emily